The French Baguette, second attempt

They look magnificent. And they were, in their way. But they were not French baguettes. They were simply good bread. 

I made the first batch a few weeks ago following the recipe from Cook’s Complicated, er, Illustrated. And it was complicated. I really felt way out of my comfort zone and I decided I needed to learn to make bread. Much of the problem about the first batch was not having the “feel” of the bread-making process. Those loaves turned out well, really well, but the process was more anxiety provoking than one might prefer considering one is making something that has been made for eons with little-to-no anxiety whatsoever. The final product wasn’t, well, baguette-y enough. I think a French person would have eaten them and thought they were fine but I knew better. They were not the bread I’d had in France. So I determined I will continue making the bread but adjusting the various elements, ingredients, procedures until I got it right.

So this time I used less diastatic malt powder. This is the ingredient that makes the crust brown (I have a pound of it, minus 2 tsp), and I assumed, thick. And I reduced the baking temperature to 475 degrees. The last time I set the oven to 500 and though the recipe called for about 15 to 20 minutes of baking time, they were done in about 8 with very dark, thick crusts.

The process of actually making the dough is sorta nothing. You make it then you let it sit for a few days in the refrigerator. Once it’s sat for enough time the real work begins. It’s not unlike going to Catholic mass. Stand up, sit down, wait, ringing bells, stand up, wait, kiss of peace, etc. After about 3 hours of folding turning pinching shaping and a lot of waiting, you pop them in the oven. The baking is almost anti climactic. They were done, they looked fabulous. And they were good.

They just weren’t French baguettes. The crust was less than crusty, sorta chewy. 

Next time I will use regular flour. I was using Anson Mills bread flour which at $497 a pound is a little pricy. But now I will find out if just plain old flour makes that big a difference.

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